Digital Respons-Ability

In Defense of Tools

I once asked a group of students to help me solve a fictitious problem. I told them I had a tool that was causing havoc; putting holes in walls, breaking people’s fingers, and overall making a mess of things. I asked the students if I should ban this tool. A few students gave me a quick yes – anything causing that much damage should be banned. Others gave me a puzzled look; they wisely wanted to know what the tool was before sending it to its doom. 

I humored the students and showed them the offending tool – a hammer. 

They laughed. The kids that voted to ban the object rescinded their decision. We had an unanimous decision – the innocent tool should not be banned. 

I then posed the question, “Why?”. Why should something so destructive be allowed a place in our lives? Their answers were wise beyond their years: Hammers should be allowed because they help build; if used correctly, it can be used for good; if people are getting hurt, ensure you set rules and teach young people how to use it appropriately; and provide supervision for those too young to understand how to use it on their own. 

These answers seem so obvious and useful for a tool such as a hammer, but what about a tool as powerful as the internet? 

Like a hammer, the internet can cause damage if misused. It can also be a powerful force for good. It’s important to teach the rising generation the skills they need to be safe, and even more important to teach them how to use their powers for good. 

Written by Jolyn Short, Digital Respons-Ability trainer